Friday, March 19, 2010

More jobs: House Capital Budget passes

“More bang for the buck” is the theme of the House Capital Budget, which passed today on a vote of 59-36.

The budget, which funds construction of public buildings, is about 35% smaller than the one passed during the 2007-2009 biennium, but it maximizes the return on the state’s investment.

For example, $50 million invested for affordable housing projects would become $250 million in projects, a 4-to-1 return on investment.

$150 million invested for energy efficiency work in public schools would become $600 million in projects, a 3-to-1 return on investment.

How is such a great return on investment possible, especially in today’s economy? Because of local and federal matches, that’s how.

If that wasn’t enough good news, the budget would also create thousands of jobs across the state – 7500 good-paying construction jobs, to be exact. And with almost 30% of the construction industry currently out of work, these jobs couldn’t come at a better time.

The House and Senate still need to work out a compromise budget, but House Capital Budget Chair Rep. Hans Dunshee is determined that the final budget will be one that creates new jobs.

Special v. Extraordinary

Not too many people think of special session as very, well... special. To that point our Senate friends posted a handy explanation of just how unspecial these special sessions are.

At least we're not calling it extraordinary session, which is the other phrase that can be used to describe the sessions called by the Governor. The last extraordinary session was in 2003. It was actually an extra-extra-extraordinary session since there were three of them.

The difference appears to be a mere matter of semantics. The Secretary of State uses the phrase "extraordinary session" whereas most of us throw around the more alliterative term,"special session." A quick Google search of special and extraordinary sessions in other states found related phrases such as supplemental session and extra session.

Whatever you call it, legislators involved in budget negotiations are working hard in the hopes of making this a "short session."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rep. Hunter presents Tax Evasion for Dummies

Rep. Ross Hunter is the guy people either love or hate these days. He's the one spearheading the House revenue-finding mission to help balance our budget.

On March 1 he rolled out a five-part revenue proposal made up largely of closing tax loopholes and cracking down on tax avoidance schemes.

It seems this kind of thing should be an easy sell but there's some resistance and Hunter is working hard to keep lobbyists at bay while the House and Senate work on a compromise. But people who know Hunter know he always enjoys a tough challenge and is even able to keep a sense of humor about it all.

So, to help people understand how to take advantage of these loopholes before we shut 'em down, he's crafted a how-to video. Enjoy!

House continuing push for more jobs in Washington

While negotiations on the final budget continue in the background, the House has been busy passing a series of bills to create new jobs, protect existing businesses, and train unemployed workers for new careers in emerging industries.

In the last two days, we've sent the Senate bills that will create over 50,000 jobs, primarily in the construction industry -- one of the hardest-hit sectors of our economy.

To help those who have lost their jobs get trained for a new one, we passed:

The Senate has also approved legislation designed to spur job creation, and we will be considering those measures later this week.

No floor but a couple committees are meeting

Legislators are taking a break from floor action today to give time for the Finance and Ways & Means committees to move some jobs and budget-related Senate bills forward.

At 10 in Finance:
Public Hearing:
1. ESSB 5899 - Providing a business and occupation tax credit for qualified employment positions.
2. 2SSB 6675 - Creating the Washington global health technologies and product development competitiveness program and allowing certain tax credits for program contributions.
3. SSB 6712 - Extending expiring tax incentives for certain clean alternative fuel vehicles, producers of certain biofuels, and federal aviation regulation part 145 certificated repair stations.
4. SSB 6727 - Concerning health sciences and services authorities.

Possible Executive Session:
1. SSB 6712 - Extending expiring tax incentives for certain clean alternative fuel vehicles, producers of certain biofuels, and federal aviation regulation part 145 certificated repair stations.
2. ESSB 6737 - Providing an exemption from property tax for aircraft used to provide air ambulance services.
3. Bills referred to committee.

At 3:30 in Ways & Means:
Public Hearing: SSB 6572 - Eliminating certain accounts.

Possible Executive Session:
1. HB 2365 - Relating to general government programs to implement the 2009-2011 operating budget.
2. SSB 6572 - Eliminating certain accounts.
3. Bills referred to committee.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

House is back on the floor today -- focus is on jobs

The House returns to floor action this morning, and at the top of the agenda is repassing a list of bills that were returned to us when the regular session ended last Thursday night.

We will start with the first bill passed in January -- the JOBS Act of 2010 -- followed by the Washington Works housing act and Opportunity Express.

The JOBS Act and Washington Works housing act are predicted to create over 45,000 construction jobs, as well as thousands of support and service jobs, over the next few years. Both passed the House earlier this year but did not receive a vote in the Senate. We are hoping for better things this time!

Monday, March 15, 2010

First day of session, again

After a short break following Thursday's adjournment sine die, legislators are heading back into Olympia for the first day of special session.

Legally, when the Governor calls for a special session, legislators can go up to 30 days. But the Governor has asked, and legislative leaders agree, the goal is to wrap up work in seven days. The focus will be finalizing the supplemental budget and reaching agreement on a package of jobs bills.

There will be a pro forma session today at noon, but no floor action is scheduled.